The Wonderful World Of Compost

It’s 2019. Every day brings new advancements in technology and ways to improve our lives and how we impact the environment. You’ve probably already taken the usual steps; upgrading to Energy Star rated appliances, installing solar panels to your roof and replacing your old windows with energy efficient models. Recycling has been part of our lives for decades, but another way to cut down on waste that’s also been around for a while, but isn’t as widely used is compost.

Compost is the natural breaking down of organic material. That broken down material becomes fertilizer. Fertilizer from compost is actually the most nutrient dense fertilizer on the market – seeing as it is derived from nutrient rich foods and other organic material. But the benefits go far beyond that.

What Can Compost?

As mentioned, organic material is what creates compost, most of which is food. But not all foods. Prepared food will not naturally break down. However, the peels and rinds of fruits and vegetables do qualify. Also on the list are egg shells and coffee grounds. For anyone who eats a traditional breakfast of coffee, eggs, and bacon that’s a whole lot of compost happening in your trash can.

Other materials that can compost are grass clippings, wood chips, and most papers, though the jury is still out on whether or not newspapers and receipts are good for composting due to the chemicals in the ink. It will break down over time, but the toxic chemicals aren’t entirely safe for fertilizers.

Why Compost?

Great question, so glad you asked. There’s already a lot of trash in your can that composts under the right conditions. However, trapped in a garbage bag in the landfill with other non-compostable materials prevents it from serving the earth to its fullest potential as fertilizer. Separating out your compostables – like you do with recyclables – means you can put it to great use in your very own yard. But it doesn’t just stop at growing a healthy lawn and garden.

All water filters through the soil, which is why it’s important to be careful with the types of manufactured fertilizers you use. Ground that’s been fertilized with toxins end up polluting the water in the long run. So not only do you have the benefit of clearing out a landfill and putting trash to use, you also get to improve overall water quality. Makes you wonder why more people don’t do it.

How Does One Go About Composting At Home?

Another excellent question. There are actually a few ways you can compost whether or not you have the materials for it. If you’re bound to an apartment or condo living, larger cities like Los Angeles and Austin have community-wide compost programs; sites where you can learn how to compost properly and dispose of it for municipal use.

If you don’t want to participate in a community program, you can compost from the comfort of your own home with a composting bin you can purchase, or by creating your own DIY bin starting directly on the ground and layering between moist and dry materials. It’s important to keep your compost moist and in a full sun area of your yard. Some bins are designed to control the smell of compost, but there are also home remedies you can use to keep stenches at bay.

For the tech savvy investor, home compost systems like the HomeBioGas are popping up in homes around the world. These systems allow you to compost more than just the regular items. Not only that, but the entire system converts part of the compost into natural gas that is then funneled into a burner in your kitchen’s stove with which you can use to cook. Your food trash can actually beget more food prep.

In the end, however you choose to compost making the choice to compost is one of the best decisions you can make to improve the environment and your own home.

Small Changes That Make A Big Difference: Eliminating Plastics From Your Life

Earth Day is upon us and the planet needs your help. It’s a fact. Changes need to be made to make our environment safe for years to come. Sweeping legislation like The Green New Deal is important, and you can call your representatives and express your desire that they prioritize this global issue. But while passing laws is a slower process, there are things YOU can do right now to reduce your carbon footprint and help Mother Earth. Make these switches from plastic products to reduce waste and production of this caustic material.

Shopping Bags

Taxes on plastic bags in supermarkets were introduced way back in 2003 in Ireland and Denmark. Since then, many states in The States have started implementing the bag tax of anywhere from a ten to twenty cent charge for each bag used by shoppers. It’s been effective, especially in Europe where they’ve seen an estimated 30% drop in plastics on the ocean floor since their ban in 2003. You can purchase reusable bags from most grocery stores. Trendy, small boutiques will sell designer totes and bags that will hold up to 10lbs. And there’s always the internet with everything you could need. Reusable bags will not only save the earth, but they’ll save your kitchen where you hoard plastic and paper bags (which actually provides the perfect ecosystem for roaches. Gross!) Store them in your car, or keep them on a hook by your garage door; wherever you’re sure to remember them so you always have them before you walk into the store.

Drink Containers

It’s estimated that Americans use 167 plastic water bottles a year, but only 38 are recycled on average. Switching to an insulated, reusable water canteen will not just save the environment from plastic waste, it will also put more money in your pocket because you won’t be buying bottles of water anymore. The same rule applies to coffee thermoses. Even if you prefer to grab your morning joe from a drive thru coffee shop, you can still provide them with your mug (and even get a small credit on your bill). And like the water bottle, coffee thermoses are insulated which helps keep hot liquids hotter longer. While on the topic of drinks, purchasing reusable metal or dishwasher safe plastic straws will keep straw waste to a minimum. To lay some facts on you, every reusable coffee thermos save 500 cups of coffee and one little metal straw keeps 540 straws out of landfills and oceans.

Toothbrushes

Bamboo toothbrushes are a thing and they are incredible. Bamboo is a highly sustainable plant that costs less to produce than cotton and can be used in a variety of things from flooring to face cleansing pads and all the way to toothbrushes. Using bamboo toothbrushes is also great because unlike their plastic counterparts, bamboo will biodegrade over time. So even though you still replace your toothbrush every month or so, this waste will not stick around forever.

Dispensers and Bulk Purchasing

Packaging creates waste. In some European countries, plastics are being banned completely, even in food packaging. While you can’t control what manufacturers use to package their food and other household products, you can control your packaging waste by buying items in bulk and purchasing reusable dispensers and containers for those items. For example, buying one large volume bag or bottle or dish soap and using a ceramic soap dispenser saves 3 regular bottles of Dawn or Palmolive. The added bonus that you get to also use this as an excuse to decorate your bathroom and kitchen a little is just the cherry on top.

Apply this method with other cleaning products in your house such as window or countertop cleaners and oil-based furniture cleaners/polishes, then hit that bargain bin at Target or craft store for some cute, inexpensive spray bottles. Why stop at cleaning products? You can use this concept with food, too! Buying flour, nuts, seasoning, and other non-perishable pantry items in bulk and storing them in a locking container helps keep food fresh while also making them easily accessible. A kitschy set of salt and pepper shakers can stay by the stove while you keep a large jar of it tucked away in the cabinets. Glass mason-type jars with locking lids are very affordable and come in a variety of volumes, not to mention they’re the best at keeping critters out of your dried goods (flour, rice, pasta).

Some switches may be harder to turn into habit. Such as always having bags before you shop and grabbing your water or coffee before leaving your house. But it only takes 21 days to create a new habit. After enough time, it’ll be second nature. Ultimately, these switches aren’t just good for saving you money, they are vital to keeping our planet clean and habitable. In the end, a few small changes will add up to some big improvements. 

Captain Planet Says Compost!

Okay, the Cap isn’t delivering this message personally. However, if you’re looking for more ways to reduce your carbon footprint and save money then we’ve got a secret weapon for you: compost.

‘That’s like, fertilizer, right?’ Correct. Well, it’s the main byproduct of compost. There are other things which can be done with compost, but more on that later. But what exactly, is compost? Well, every living thing on the earth contains nutrients. Every living thing needs nutrients. Some living things can synthesize – create – their own nutrients. We can’t. Which is why we consume food. And if we’re consuming natural foods (fruits, veggies, eggs), then we’re consuming the best source for fresh nutrients.

If you cook at home at all (which hurts neither your health nor your wallet) you most likely toss a lot of food and food scraps into the garbage. Well, all those scraps (specifically fruit and veggie skins, eggs and coffee grounds) will, under the right circumstance, decompose down into their most pure, nutrient form that is compost. That compost can be used in your garden as fertilizer – or in some cases – converted into gas that can power your home.

Tell Me More!

Don’t get too excited. While the food waste you produce in your kitchen won’t be enough to fuel the entirety of your home, it can provide you with fuel to cook your next meal. But this requires a specific product which we’ll touch on later. For now, there are a few options when it comes to how to compost. If your city is large enough – like Austin, TX (keep it weird) – there may be a community supported program you can access that makes composting as simple as recycling. If you’re in a more rural area that isn’t quite there yet, you can compost in your own backyard and reap the benefits of that glorious, nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden and yard. Bonus! Fertilizing your grass with nutrient-rich, natural, non-toxic compost means whatever isn’t absorbed by the soil and plants won’t harm the water supply from the soil run-off.

Getting Started

Before you jump head first into a more complex undertaking, do a little research. Starting out, especially, search the internet for local compost programs. For renters, this is the only option to cut down on food waste. But even if you own a home and can install and care for your own compost system, checking out a community-wide program can help acquaint you with the basics of compost, as well as get you into the habit of separating compost from regular garbage. Once you feel confident in what to compost and how it works, then you can start looking into your own home compost system.

There are two ways to compost at home. You can buy/build a compost bin and tend it like you would a garden to create basic fertilizer for your lawn and garden. It’s the “handmade” version, if you will. It’s very cost effective, but does require monitoring and attention, as well as a solid knowledge of how to properly maintain a compost bin at home. Luckily we live in the digital age and such information exists at your fingertips in the form of articles, videos, even podcasts. The second, more advanced, more expensive, but less effort required option is the Home Biogas system. This system converts your food scraps (and more than just the standard grounds, shells, and produce) into gas and then funnels it back into your kitchen for cooking, as well as fertilizer for your lawn. You’re looking to spend a couple grand with Home Biogas, but you save money, food waste, and gas usage since you’re cooking with what your food trash has created. Whereas a regular compost bin is only a couple hundred – at the most – for a bin and start up and it only begets fertilizer.

At the end of the day, there isn’t a wrong way to compost. Except to not compost. That’s wrong. It cuts down on waste and repurposes it for multiple uses and it puts nutrients back into our soil to harvest better crops. It eliminates harmful toxins from run-off that gets into the water supply. Like solar energy, it’s one of many steps we can take moving forward in a new green initiative.